(East) Asian Consumer Behavior - 5 Things Every Luxury Brand Should Know
1. Mind the physical-digital retail gap
Asian consumers love to learn about brands. Years of studying and collecting empirical evidence on cross-cultural differences in consumer behavior have taught me that this consumer behavior is significantly more robust among Asians than among Westerners. This consumer desire manifests itself in a research process that includes searching for details about product specifications and manufacturing processes as well as about the brand’s history and heritage. Asian consumers are delighted to learn about the founder’s upbringing, how the brand came about, and what the logo stands for. They want to know why the brand is unique. Asian consumers view gaining brand knowledge as an asset that they can then share with others.
2. Mind the physical-digital retail gap
When compared to other mature markets, businesses in Asian countries, including Japan, are lagging behind in developing e-commerce sites for their brand. Though consumers still generally prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores, brands need to ensure that there is seamlessness and cohesiveness between their physical and digital stores. The biggest challenge for e-commerce in Asia is to ensure a high level of service. In effect, it is critical for Asian mobile messaging platforms such as WeChat and Line to develop user-friendly functionalities that enable consumers to click and purchase products with ease.
3. Really serve the customer
Given that Asian cultures are generally more collectivistic and hierarchical when compared to Western cultures, Asian consumers expect employees to be highly attentive and to anticipate and fulfill their needs even without overt communication. Under no circumstances can service feel transactional; instead, it needs to feel personal and customized to individual consumers. Consumers expect a flawless service experience, a reality that makes it essential to train and educate store employees to greet consumers properly, keep the right distance, and to walk each consumer to the door.
4. Obsess over the details
The high-end Japanese department store, Isetan, is famous for the intensive training in gift wrapping its employees are required to undergo. Every step, from folding and creasing the paper, to tying the ribbon on the gift, has to be perfect. If there is even a single blemish on the wrapping paper, the employee starts over. The customer’s time is precious, so gift wrapping must be done perfectly and efficiently. In addition, glass display cases must be impeccably polished at all times. Not a single speck of dust should be seen anywhere in the store. The bathrooms must be elegantly decorated and pristine. This level of attention to detail and quality control is especially important in the luxury context.
5. Respect the seasons
Asian cultures have a very intimate, deep-rooted relationship with nature. As a result, seasonality has a very strong influence on the market. Asian consumers love seasonal products and other limited edition products. Major luxury houses understand this very well, and regularly launch limited edition designs in different locations, and host season-inspired events that incorporate nature. For example, Moët-Chandon sponsors cherry-blossom inspired events in the spring in Japan, while other luxury houses launch Chinese zodiac-inspired collections during the Lunar New Year. To be successful in Asian markets, luxury brands need to gain a deep understanding of the consumers’ relationship with nature and its seasons.
About the author
Dr. Mirei Takashima Claremon is a global branding and consumer expert who has been active in the marketing field for over a decade. She runs her own global marketing consulting firm, and helps companies launch brands into culturally different markets by creating customized and effective marketing and brand-building strategies. She possesses keen insights into Asian consumers that she has gained through in-depth empirical research on Asian consumers’ luxury purchasing habits as well as what drives their brand loyalty.